Charity warns of educational emergency for deaf childrenPublished Date: 12 Jan 2023
- Teachers of the Deaf numbers fall for eighth time in a decade to lowest number on record
- One in five posts have been lost since 2012 - and they could be down by a third by 2030
- More than half are due to retire in the next 10 to 15 years
- Deaf children already fall behind throughout school – charity warns the situation could get worse without urgent Government investment
Thousands of deaf children across England are facing an educational emergency as specialist support for deaf children and their families has fallen to its lowest level on record, the National Deaf Children’s Society is warning.
A new report, published by the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE), shows that one in five qualified Teachers of the Deaf posts in England have been lost since 2012, with nearly four in 10 local authorities seeing a decrease in the number of Teachers of the Deaf over the past year.
The charity’s grim prediction is that by 2030 their numbers will have plummeted by a third (32%)* when compared to 2012, should the downward trend continue.
Teachers of the Deaf are vital in removing barriers which can stand in the way of deaf children and their families. They give advice to parents and families of newly identified deaf children. They also visit deaf children at school or college to give them any extra help they need - and they give expert tips to mainstream teachers and schools on deaf awareness and inclusion.
The drop in numbers comes against a backdrop of more than a quarter of services finding it challenging to recruit new Teachers of the Deaf to permanent or supply posts, often because of a lack of qualified applicants.
The CRIDE report reveals incremental year-on-year decreases in numbers of Teachers of the Deaf, as their caseloads continue to increase. On average, each peripatetic Teacher of the Deaf now has a theoretical caseload of 63 deaf children, up from 46 in 2012 – an increase of more than a third (37%).
And the National Deaf Children’s Society is concerned that more than half of Teachers of the Deaf are over the age of 50, meaning they’re likely to retire in the next 10-15 years and further reduce the numbers available.
Funding is to be one of the key reasons behind the continuing fall. Evidence from the charity’s annual Freedom of Information requests to local authorities show a sustained pattern of cuts to budgets to these vital services over many years. Families have also told the National Deaf Children’s Society that specialist support from Teachers of the Deaf, for their children, which is not ring-fenced, is increasingly being rationed.
Failings in the overall framework is another key factor in the drop in numbers. The SEND system does not provide the necessary incentives for local authorities to fund the training of new Teachers of the Deaf unless they have a vacant post, at which point many often find they are unable to recruit.
There are more than 45,000 deaf children across England.
Kaitlyn, aged 18, and from South-East London, attended a mainstream secondary school with a Hearing Impaired Unit, receiving all grade 5’s and 6’s at GCSE and Distinction and two B’s at A level.
She said: “In the Unit there were some deaf teaching assistants and Teachers of the Deaf which was so helpful as they fully understand the struggles deaf children face and help make learning and the environment more inclusive and accessible.”
But sadly, this kind of support isn’t always provided. Evidence suggests some deaf children are being failed by an education system that should support them. On average, they fall behind at every stage of school, including an entire grade at GCSE. On top of this, the lack of specialist support leaves many feeling alone and isolated in schools, with a detrimental impact on their mental health.
Kaitlyn added: “Although the Unit was amazing, the mainstream school was not so good at being inclusive and staff didn’t always remember to subtitle videos or speak clearly or be deaf aware, despite receiving deaf awareness training.”
The National Deaf Children’s Society calls on the Government to clearly set out how its anticipated response to the SEND (special educational needs and disability) Green Paper will address this widening access crisis.
The charity believes the Government’s ambitions to deliver a more inclusive SEND system will only succeed if action is taken as part of a wider specialist SEND workforce strategy to invest in the training and recruitment of 200 new qualified Teachers of the Deaf to return staffing numbers to their 2012 levels.
Without this vital step, it says deaf children will continue to fall behind and the gap between them and their hearing classmates’ risks becoming even wider.
Ian Noon, Chief Policy Advisor at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said:
“Teachers of the Deaf play a crucial role in supporting deaf children of all ages, but year after year they’re being cut as a money saving exercise. Our projected figures for 2030 are truly alarming.
“This educational emergency will leave thousands of deaf children fighting for their futures as they continue to fall behind at every stage of school.”
“The Government must commit to investing in Teachers of the Deaf to ensure every deaf child receives the support they need to reach their full potential.”